Saturday, 21 April 2012

What Matters

A recent weekend away was a rare chance to spend time with many of my closest friends, as well as an extended excuse for a few drinks. However, as lovely as it was, it wasn’t really the occasion for great wines. That being said, who can go a whole weekend with nothing decent to drink? Fortunately, I never leave home for any extended period of time without either a bottle or two of something particularly palatable stashed in my luggage or a well planned route to a noteworthy local vintner. With a boot full of goodies and, through a joyous twist of fate, with the rather wonderful Worth Brothers Wines at the bottom of the hill, I was all set to have a great time.

Our stay at Nether Burrows Farm was never going to be short of sustenance of any sort, but should three times the expected number of people have turned up we would still have had too much food and drink. Easy drinking was the order of the day(s) and I thought that half a case of Catena’s Alamos Malbec, along with a selection of Innis & Gunn’s cask matured beers, would to fit the bill admirably. Just for the hell of it, I also threw a bottle of Brennivín into the car for a little digestif action.

Now I’ve written before about the perils of returning to a former love, but this time I was going to try to rekindle a holiday romance. And everyone knows how that usually turns out. I fell for the distinctive charms of Brennivín during a couple of days in Reykjavik last December. It gets a lot of bad press considering how difficult it is to buy anywhere other than Iceland, although this might have more to do with it being the traditional accompaniment for Hákarl than to do with its actual taste. Speaking from experience, the flavours of Brennivín work very well with those of the shark, but I'll only be partaking of one of the two again. Brennivín (37.5% ABV) is a potato based schnapps, relatively softly textured, with a flavour of gripe water and a pleasant, not too overwhelming caraway spice. Serve it well chilled with smoked foods or just on its own after dinner. This was the first time I had tried it on home turf, but I'm thrilled to report that this was a holiday affair that survived the flight home.

On the Friday night we put a dent in the Malbec (and in the selection that everyone else brought), and so Saturday saw me taking a trip down the hill to Worth Brothers Wines for half an hour’s peaceful browsing. Sticking to my easy drinking, crowd pleasing brief, I decided against some interesting looking Austrian wines and instead plumped for a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and an Australian Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz blend.

Sauvignon Blanc
Majella, The Musician
Cabernet Sauvignon
Shiraz 2009
Greywacke is the newish label from Kevin Judd, the winemaker who produced the first twenty five vintages of Cloudy Bay, a pedigree that had put his wines on my “Want To Try” list. His 2011 Sauvignon Blanc (13.5% ABV) was aromatic and finely balanced, its grapefruit pith and gentle tomato leaf nose made it more fruity than vegetal in style. Zesty and bright, white grapefruit and a squeeze of passion fruit gave the palate a restrained tropical note; ripe, concentrated and balanced by fresh acidity and a flinty minerality. I’m not a huge Sauvignon Blanc fan and I’m not really sure what one would drink this with, but it was a very good Marlborough example, not at all overblown, and I enjoyed it despite myself.

The red was Majella's 2009 The Musician Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz (14.5% ABV) from Coonawarra, although a single sniff was enough to make its origins pretty obvious. The pronounced minty/eucalyptus character to the blackcurrant and peppery, oak spice nose was something that would always makes me think Coonawarra, and these flavours carried through to the full, rich palate. Although not hugely complex, it was bolstered by a touch of mulberry fruit from the Shiraz, a nifty lick of oak, fine tannins and moderate acidity to round things off. The alcohol was not too intrusive, but there was a hint of bitterness to the finish. Drink this over the next couple of years. A big Aussie red such as this wouldn’t have been my usual choice, but it was enjoyed by all concerned and that’s what matters.

We all had a fabulous break; the company, the food, and the drink were delightfully easy and we are already planning our next trip away. What shall I take next time?

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